The Lesser of Two Evils

CALL YOUR TRAVEL agent back. There may still be time to cancel those millennial Rose Bowl and Super Bowl trips and get that large cash deposit refunded. Four in a row was a no-go for the Seahawks and Huskies last weekend, and it's time to bring expectations for the hometown heroes down to responsibly overexuberant levels.

A victory Sunday against the San Diego Chargers would have capped the first four-game winning streak for the Seahawks since 1986. That should have been the first tip that something was terribly wrong with the public perception of Team Holmgren. The 1999 Seahawks are a good football team— solid defense, reliable special teams, an offense that doesn't make many mistakes—but they aren't that good. If they were that good, then they'd be able to score on a running play every once in a while. Which they can't.

The Seahawks are the only team in the NFL without a rushing touchdown. Clinically speaking, Seattle's rushing dysfunction has multiple causes: Coach Holmgren has a weakness for passing the football, the Seahawk offensive line is not a position of strength, and injuries have forced the insertion of a third-string right tackle.

It doesn't help that Ricky Watters is playing like he's about 57 years old. Watters hasn't scored this year and may need a sedan chair escort if he is to cross the goal line any time soon. Ricky doesn't have a 100-yard rushing game yet, though he's been close (and the Mariners are close to shoring up that bullpen, too).

If you can't run the football, you shouldn't be planning any trips to San Diego. Holmgren all but admitted that his team couldn't run the ball against the Chargers' ferocious defense by the middle of the third quarter. When the Seahawks were given a first-and-goal after a pass interference penalty, they didn't run the ball and they didn't even waste time with play action. Kitna rolled right and threw a score to Itula Mili, the most selfish player in league history judging by the percentage of his name constructed with the letter "i."

Speaking of Joey Galloway's favorite letter, it's time for bulletin #4 from the holdout front: Yes, he still wants more money. Joey is staying in shape by playing quarterback for the Wheeling Outlaws of the Ohio Valley Flag Football League, earning the same salary as his coal miner teammates. The Ohio Valley Flag Football League? Don't ever let anyone make fun of the seven fantasy football leagues you belong to at the office.

Perhaps Seattle's offense needed a little more of a boost from the defense—say, five second-half interceptions instead of only four. Junior Seau's crew is so good that it didn't even waver when the first four San Diego drives of the second half ended with Erik Kramer interceptions. The most critical possession change took place late in the third quarter when the Seahawks started at the San Diego 33 after an interception by Chris Canty.

The Seahawks were too proud to accept Kramer's gift and returned it unopened. In three plays from scrimmage the offense lost five yards, placing the ball just outside of Todd Peterson's field goal range. Seattle punted, and Peterson subsequently missed a 48-yarder on the team's only other scoring opportunity the rest of the game.

If Seattle's ugly 13-10 loss at San Diego (like their ugly 14-13 win over Chicago a month earlier) indicates that pro football has achieved egalitarian parity, then I want the feudal system of old brought back. Though Jacksonville has the best AFC record at 5-1, they haven't played like champions. Nonetheless, with their second-half schedule packed with bottom dwellers, the Jaguars are all but assured home-field advantage throughout. In the NFC, the bleatin' Rams are 5-0 and playing like Don Coryell's San Diego Chargers.

We'll soon see if the excitement surrounding the Seahawks has a firmer foundation than that briefly enjoyed by the Huskies. The Rose Bowl hopes of Husky fans diminished proportionately as the Arizona State game went along last Saturday. With two minutes to go and the Dawgs trailing by three touchdowns, the stands had emptied to the point where there were more shoppers at Montlake's Hop-In Grocery than spectators inside Husky Stadium.

Don't look for another three-game Seattle winning streak anytime soon. The Buffalo Bills come to town Sunday with the kind of tough-guy defense that will be very difficult for the Seahawks to run against. Then our boys in blue play at Green Bay on All Saints' Day. Feast day or not, the response might not be so charitable if Seahawk fans are staring down the barrel of a three-game losing streak.

 
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